"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
May 22: Fifth Sunday of Easter
• Acts 6:1-7
The first course of stones laid upon the foundation of the Apostles is described in this week’s first reading as seven men are ordained. The Church was growing rapidly and it became increasingly difficult for the Apostles to minister to all the needs of the people. Therefore they chose “seven reputable men filled with the Spirit and wisdom” from the Greek-speaking part of the community to assist them in shepherding God’s people.
The first letter of Peter (second reading) was written with the newly baptized in mind. The Church established by Christ fulfilled Israel’s vocation to be “a royal priesthood and a holy nation,” appointed to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.” Joined to Christ’s body in baptism, we participate in his priestly work of reconciling God and man.
This week’s Gospel anticipates the ascension of Jesus who speaks of “going to his Father” in order to “prepare a place” for his disciples. He assures them that “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do … because I am going to the Father.”
The “work” that Jesus did was to offer himself as an oblation and sacrifice to God the Father. Our “work” is to join him by presenting our “bodies as a holy and living sacrifice, acceptable to God” which is our spiritual worship (Rm 12:1).
Key verse: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pt 2:9).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist” (No. 1322).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The Second Vatican Council rightly emphasized the active, full and fruitful participation of the entire people of God in the eucharistic celebration. It should be made clear that the word ‘participation’ does not refer to mere external activity during the celebration. In fact, the active participation called for by the council must be understood in more substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life” (“Sacrament of Charity,” 52).
Life application: “The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving,” (CCC, No. 766). The common priesthood of the baptized along with the ministerial priesthood comprises the whole Christ, head and body together. As we participate “fully and consciously” in the Lord’s own sacrifice in the Mass the invisible reality of heaven becomes visible on earth. The liturgy should be above all reverent and prayerful. In this way the “fully conscious and active participation” of the people is made possible.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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